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  • The origins of Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute

    Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute was formed in June 2013 through the merger of Courage Center and Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, part of Allina Health. Both organizations bring a strong history of service to people with disabilities to the new Institute.

    About Sister Kenny

    Elizabeth Kenny was born in Australia in 1880. She trained as an army nurse, then treated the sick for 31 years in the bushlands of Australia. She was granted the honorific the title "Sister" - used in Commonwealth countries for "nurse."

    Sister Kenny beside a child's bed

    In 1911, when she encountered her first case of polio, Sister Kenny was unaware of conventional polio treatment - immobilizing the affected muscles with splints. Instead, she used common sense and her understanding of anatomy to treat the symptoms of the disease.

    Sister Kenny applied moist hot packs to help loosen muscles, relieve pain, and enable limbs to be moved, stretched, and strengthened. The theory of her treatment was muscle "re-education" - the retraining of muscles so that they could function again.

    In 1940, Sister Kenny traveled to the United States and eventually to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where, in 1942, the Sister Kenny Institute was established. Her pioneering principles of muscle rehabilitation became the foundation of physical therapy.

    Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute became one of the premier rehabilitation centers in the country, known for its progressive and innovative vision.

    About Courage Center

    Courage Center was founded in 1928 as the Minnesota Society for Crippled Children and Adults. The organization is dedicated to meeting the changing needs of children and adults with disabilities, with an emphasis on advocacy and recreation as well as rehabilitation.

    During the 1950s and 1960s, under the visionary leadership of then Executive Director Wilko Schoenbohm, rehabilitation and training centers were established, a camp for people with disabilities was opened, and public advocacy work continued.

    In 1973, the Golden Valley facility was dedicated by Julie Nixon Eisenhower. Additional locations were opened later in Stillwater, Burnsville and Forest Lake, along with an adaptive sports program in Duluth.

    Courage Center and Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute partnered to create AXIS Healthcare, a new health care model for people with disabilities that became operational in 2001.

    In 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that Courage Center was one of 26 nationwide recipients of the Health Care Innovation Award. The three-year $1.8 million award allows Courage Center to further develop its patient-centered medical home model for people with disabilities and complex medical conditions.